By Sallie W. Boyles | Photography by Paul Morejón | Makeup, styling, and creative direction by DapperAfrika
“I believe strongly the world needs more individuals who don’t follow trends and have their own mind,” shared Yasin Abdur, the late CEO of DapperAfrika, in a 2015 interview for African Prints in Fashion. Ultimately assuming “DapperAfrika” as his own moniker, the wardrobe-editorial-creative director had a gift for culling and synthesizing the artistic creations and talent of others. Leaving his mark on the industry, DapperAfrika, who passed away in 2019, orchestrated the fashion spread featured here.
Photographer Paul Morejón and model Galaxia Lorenzo, both based in New York, embraced the opportunity. Having entered the industry at about the same time, albeit through different paths, they met on this project.
Morejón, who grew up in Harlem during the seventies and eighties, received his first camera, a Polaroid, at the age of seven. Besides enjoying the “instant gratification” of taking a picture and having it in hand, he instinctively knew how to capture moments on film. By high school, he’d graduated to a thirty-five-millimeter camera and later bought one of the first digital cameras. Morejón says, “I began to get a lot of feedback from friends on my photos, like the ones I took on vacations,” which were taken using basic point-and-shoot equipment.
Later, as a favor to people close to him, he’d photograph weddings and take headshots. “I thought of it as a hobby,” Morejón recalls, “never as a career.” Meanwhile, he was miserably successful in the field of technology—until his partner finally told him, “You’re not happy in this job. You’re not looking joyful when you come home.” Grateful for the push, Morejón began working professionally as a photographer in 2013.
Regarding the fashion niche, Morejón was in the right place at the right time. “I was shooting for a friend’s fashion party,” he says, “and one of the editors saw the pictures.” The woman was pleasantly surprised. “She said she’d never looked good in photos,” relays Morejón. Impressed with his eye, she invited him to New York Fashion Week.
Referring to Fashion Week assignments as his “training ground,” Morejón says, “I learned to manage people and moments. I learned in the trenches to work quickly and get what I want in any circumstance. I don’t overshoot.” Always cognizant of the give-and-take, he adds, “You want to be respectful of the artist, the energy given to you.”
When scoping out the scene backstage, Morejón says, “I’d notice the photographers would gravitate to the blonde, fair-skinned models first. Because I was new and not as aggressive, I didn’t want to push past people to get to the blonde celebrity.” Also, he notes, “Growing up in Harlem, I saw the beauty in the other types.” No one was clamoring for them. Consequently, Morejón says, “I’d get to do mini photo shoots with them, taking as much as five minutes.”
Despite his ability to deliver exceptional images, Morejón says, “I was having to defend my choices, depending on the editor.” The pushback, in turn, prompted him to champion Black Models Matter, an effort to challenge the conventional notions of beauty. Such movements serve the industry if it listens and publishes editorials that appeal to consumers who wouldn’t relate to the stereotypical norms, including size and gender.
“I’d notice the photographers would gravitate to the blonde, fair-skinned models first. Because I was new and not as aggressive, I didn’t want to push past people to get to the blonde celebrity. Growing up in Harlem, I saw the beauty in the other types.”
Revealing that his views of beauty and fashion have evolved, Morejón says he’s acquired a deeper “appreciation for the creative people making magic happen.” From working and having mentors like DapperAfrika, who’d tell him to move around with the camera to gain an unexpected perspective, Morejón has learned to make that magic happen in virtually any setting. His latest work of photographing and making videos of musicians is taking him on the road—literally.
Even so, Morejón is fond of his in-home Harlem studio. “There’s a lot of good energy here,” he says, crediting its abundance of natural light. “The soul knows when the light’s real; it creates warmth.” Since Morejón knows just when the sunlight will enter the space in a certain way, he can plan the shoot in advance yet allow the process to unfold organically. “The model brings the magic,” he affirms.
With her regal frame, Galaxia Lorenzo, who is five feet nine, effortlessly fulfilled the fantasy that inspired this shoot: royalty from a futuristic world. “I go with the flow,” she says. “The more you shoot, the more you pose. It always starts slow because you’re figuring out the lighting and set. Then it’s about having fun, being in the moment, and doing a good job.”
Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, Galaxia says modeling was “not really” her dream as a child. “People used to tell me I should be a model, but I didn’t understand the business.” While taking an English class, she caught the eye of a local modeling school’s owner, who encouraged Galaxia to enroll in the course. Modeling jobs in the DR were scarce, so the school’s representative traveled to New York to secure agents for students. Subsequently, at seventeen, Galaxia landed in NYC with her father.
“Thank God,” she says, “I was not alone. Dad was with me to go on casting calls to see what I was doing. It was a lot to process, but I adapted slowly to a new life.” That’s adapting, not relinquishing personal values. “I have limitations on what I feel comfortable doing,” Galaxia contends. Having relatives living nearby also helps her stay grounded. “My family is really supportive,” she attests.
All the same, Galaxia has undeniably expanded her horizons. In six years, she’s traveled to Central and South America, Europe, and Asia for projects. “What’s great about this industry,” she says, “is the different people you meet from all over the world. You can always learn something new from a person from a different culture. I really liked India,” she expresses, “because it was the most unique.”
“What’s great about this industry is the different people you meet from all over the world. You can always learn something new from a person from a different culture."
Galaxia has also learned from the creative minds in her industry. “Sometimes,” she confesses, “when they are styling me, I think it looks weird, and when they shoot it, it looks great. Modeling has definitely changed my idea of fashion.”
Selections shown here are from Flying Solo, an NYC-based source for curated garments and accessories from dozens of independent designers. Items are available for stylists to rent and for retail at affiliated Flying Solo boutiques. Notably, though, Galaxia’s red corset belt is an item Morejón had previously bought from a Goodwill store and had on hand. The silk robe is a vintage piece.
When she sees her images, Galaxia says, “I love what I do in the pictures I get. It’s always good to see the final product after all the teamwork—the makeup artist, the stylist, the photographer. I love it!”
Positivity also influences her philosophy about modeling. “Believe in yourself and take care of yourself,” she advises any who enter the field. “You need to be confident. There’s so much competition, but don’t compare yourself with other models. You have to focus on yourself and your goals. Every path, every journey is different. For life, always look at the positive and don’t be complaining. When you’re complaining, you don’t move forward.”
Galaxia, who is only twenty-three, is excited about her career path. Beyond modeling, she admits, “I’m still trying to figure that out!”
Now recognized as a creative director, photographer, and videographer, Morejón is expanding his services, particularly in the performing arts. “Fashion Week, live music, Broadway,” he names. Considering the many ways that collections, shows, groups, and individuals must be promoted, he says, “Performers need content!”
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Galaxia Lorenzo’s Winter Beauty Tips
Hydrate: Drinking plenty of water, Galaxia doesn’t let cool temperatures fool her into thinking she isn’t thirsty.
Moisturize: Galaxia uses coconut oil to moisturize her skin, face, and hair. She’s also a fan of using Weleda Skin Food for her face daily.
Eat Well: While attesting that she must watch what she eats to maintain her shape, Galaxia loves pizza and pasta. For her, nutrition is about balance, not denial.
Exercise: Galaxia exercises four times a week. She enjoys yoga, Pilates, boxing, and running. “Energy makes you feel good!” she says.